I'd like to set up a stationary indoor photography station for quickly taking pictures of small paper goods such as:

  • Boxes (small)
  • Paper
  • Large pictures
  • Books (covers)
  • Mugs
  • Plates

I would like to know the following:

  • What camera?
  • What tripod or stand?
  • What lighting?

My needs are:

  • Quickly take pictures
  • Bright and clear pictures
  • Consistent lighting
  • Easy to transfer photos to a PC

Here is an example of puzzle box I'd like to take a picture of:


  • 1
    All straight down, copy-stand like, or some at different angles? Are the surfaces reflective or non-reflective? These are some variables that could change people's recommendations.
    – Steve Ross
    Aug 6, 2011 at 17:02
  • Straight down. Both reflective (glass covered painting) and non-reflective. Aug 6, 2011 at 23:45
  • @mattdm totally unintentional :P Aug 9, 2011 at 19:58

1 Answer 1


I would look at some copy-stand setups with continuous cool (daylight-balanced fluorescent) lighting. That would keep the camera pointed straight down with angle-in lighting from both directions. As the lights are generally at or greater than 45 degrees from the film plane, you should have few problems with reflections, but consider polarizing gels if this becomes a problem.

Either set up low or on the floor so you can see the camera back when you compose the shot or tether the camera so you can arrange the shot without too much guesswork.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, there's an article here on how to build a simple copy stand. Advantages: Low cost and you can pick out the lights you like best. Disadvantages: You have to do it yourself. If you're not handy, then Adorama, B&H, Calumet and a whole slew of other folks will be more than happy to sell you one.

Finally, these things have been around forever and there have been few improvements to the overall design. It may be worth looking around on eBay for a used one.

Two side notes:

  • A copy stand kind of setup will work great until you get to the mugs. They have depth, so you will have to work with your aperture to maintain focus acceptably.

  • If your "large" pictures are too big, you won't be able to fit them into the table of a conventional copy stand. Take this into account when you choose.

  • How about this copy stand? amazon.com/Zykkor-x15-75-Release-Bubble-Lights/dp/B004SFHPR4/… Aug 7, 2011 at 8:17
  • Their description says, Zykkor 23" High Copy Macro Stand with 14"x15.75" Base. So take your camera with the lens you intend to use, measure 20 or so inches and see if that distance or closer is a good distance for the size subjects you expect to shoot. Also, is the 14" by 15" base going to work for your larger pictures or will you have to handle this a different way? I have the impression that the lights on this are daylight-balance "hot" lights. If you haven't shot with them, I can tell you that they produce quite a bit of heat, which is why I recommended fluorescent in the first place.
    – Steve Ross
    Aug 7, 2011 at 23:48
  • probably good idea to buy a camera first, then buy a copy stand. Aug 9, 2011 at 19:59

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